Rough Cuts: Chlorinated water-washed dressed chicken?

Here is an information that we got just yesterday from the so-called horses’ mouths.

And we want to get some reactions from both local and national health authorities like the City Health Office, the Department of Health, or maybe the National Meat Inspection Commission (NMIC).

Yes, we got information from workers of some chicken dressing plants located in the city that newly dressed or de-feathered chicken are being washed with heavily-chlorinated water. The reason, according to our inside informants, is that by washing the dressed chicken with chlorinated water, it would look whitish clean and any discoloration on the chicken skin will disappear.

We do not know if this practice is authorized by health regulators for food products. But we believe that it would be for the benefit of the general public if they are made aware that the dressed chicken washing with chlorinated water is allowed and properly regulated. And if it is, the authorities should advise the public that such process does not endanger the health of the consuming population. Our sources themselves informed us that they suffered swollen eyes on days they are assigned in the washing area. They also claimed the companies are not providing them with eye goggles for protection.

But if the practice is not authorized, more so if there are health issues involved, then regulator offices should immediately check the operation of companies into the business of dressing chicken and validate its existence. And if found being done, the government must immediately order the stop to such dressed chicken cleaning procedure.

Meanwhile, we are suspecting that one of the reasons why dressed chicken cost in the market is skyrocketing is the factoring in of the price of chlorine in the determination of cost of chicken offered to the consumers.

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Wednesday morning our ears were widely cocked while listening to the live radio/television conversation between dzBB GMA News TV anchor Joel Reyes Zobel inside the announcer’s booth, and Agriculture Sec. Manny Pinol over the telephone.

Zobel was trying to get Pinol to come up with suggestions on how to possibly bring down the present cost of agri-based food products, or at least arrest its continued rise.

The DA secretary insisted that it already has done its share in finding solutions. To mention one Secretary Pinol said his department has reduced the tariffs on the importation of certain food items as well as relaxed certain government requirements to hasten the import processes.

The DA chief also told Zobel that based on his agreements with producers of agri-based food products the disposal prices at the plants or at the farm gates have remained relatively low or gone up only a little higher. So, he told Zobel’s listeners and viewers, there is clear price manipulation starting from getting out of the source to the main distributors to the retailers. And he said there must be some people who should answer for the crisis brought about by the exorbitant food cost.

Well, if the good Agriculture secretary knows that the culprits are big-time food product traders and not the producers like the farmers how come that until now the DA has not identified anyone, much more hail the culprit to the proper courts?

Pinol’s defensive reasoning on the failure of his department to stabilize the prices of agri-based food products reminds us of this very popular adage: “One only seems to see the trees rather than the forest.”

Applying this saying to Pinol’s statement, his is the case of one who conveniently prefers to “see the forest and not the trees.”

Clearly, Pinol was telling anchor Zobel his agency knows there are people who are amassing profit by taking advantage of the implementation of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law. But it is apparent the DA and other agencies with related functions as Pinol’s department’s, have not identified or named any one of them.

Whatever is the reason or reasons why the DA and the other agencies have not hailed a single price manipulator we have no idea. But the hungry public can have their imagination the widest of leeway to think of possible reasons.

Meanwhile, we are strongly supporting the move to abolish the National Food Authority (NFA) due to its failure to undertake preemptive measures that would have saved the country from its present worst food crisis.

But if the abolition is harsh enough, may be the government can settle to revising the charter of the NFA.

It is a given that under its present charter the NFA is a regulatory body for the country’s grains and related industries. But for whatever reason the same charter also allows the grains agency to be a trader itself, in effect acting as competitor to private businesses engaged in the grains industry. The question now is how can a competitor be an effective regulator? Or, how can a regulator be a fair competitor?

We believe, however, that should the NFA charter be revised and the agency be converted into a purely regulatory body, the possibility is that there will be effective regulation of the grains industry in the country. The private traders cannot entertain any doubt of ill-motives on the part of the NFA if it imposes new policies or procedures because it does not anymore have any competitive functions. As a purely regulatory agency the NFA need not worry finding a budget to procure rice directly to farmers where only a few wanted to sell their grains due to very low buying price.

In other words the job of the NFA would have been focused only on regulating the grains industry operation such as determination of fairness in prices, compliance of quality and quantity of grains sold, and of course the overall conduct of the businessmen.

For now, the NFA has dual functions where its regulatory responsibilities may have to reckon with its own trading system. This, to us, may have led the NFA to be entangled in the worst mess that has triggered the worst upheaval in the prices of the Filipino’s staple food.

Posted in Opinion